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Bricker v. McVey

April 7, 2009

RONALD L. BRICKER, PLAINTIFF
v.
CATHERINE MCVEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Ronald L. Bricker ("Bricker"), an inmate currently confined at the State Regional Correctional Facility in Mercer, Pennsylvania ("SRCF-Mercer"), filed this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on May 28, 2008. (Doc. 1.) Named as defendants are members of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("Parole Board"),*fn1 several Department of Corrections' ("DOC") officials,*fn2 and several named and unnamed attorneys employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.*fn3

Before the court is a motion to dismiss Bricker's complaint. (Doc. 12.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted with respect to Bricker's claims seeking monetary relief. The motion to dismiss will be denied with respect to Bricker's claims seeking declaratory relief. Further, Bricker will be afforded the opportunity to amend his complaint in order to clarify his claims for declaratory relief.

I. Background

Bricker asserts that in 2004 he was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on counts of bad checks, see 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 4105(a)(1), and theft by deception, see 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3922. Reading the complaint liberally, Bricker's complaint sets forth various claims against several of the defendants.*fn4 Overall, the complaint addresses the parole review process generally, but provides little detail, if any, as to how Bricker's rights were violated by this process.*fn5 Bricker is seeking declaratory and monetary relief. The claims are as follows.

A. Challenge to Parole Board Practices and Procedures

In the complaint, Bricker raises several claims with respect to the Parole Board's policies and procedures relating to parole decisions. First, Bricker claims that the constitutional rights of an inmate are violated when an inmate's parole is denied and he is subsequently precluded from appealing that decision by means of an administrative appeal or direct appeal in court. (Doc. 1 at 9.) He further claims that the Parole Board violates an inmate's constitutional rights when it paroles an inmate, yet maintains supervision over that individual during the period of his parole. (Id.)

Bricker also makes several complaints relating to the discretion of the Parole Board in making parole decisions. Initially, he takes issue with the 1996 amendments to what is commonly called the Parole Act, Act of August 6, 1941, P.L. 861, as amended, 61 P.S. § 331.1 et seq. He claims that the 1996 amendments' changes in "public policy as to parole changed in 1996 from a client-centered policy emphasizing rehabilitation to one that emphasizes public safety, deterrence of crime and the incapacitation of criminals," Mickens-Thomas v. Vaughn, 217 F. Supp. 2d 570, 578 (E.D. Pa. 2002), violate an inmate's constitutional rights. He asserts that as a result of those 1996 amendments, "[t]he Parole Board feels duty bound to hold back inmates where the court, in [the Parole Board's] opinion, has not gotten the conviction right and, therefore, has failed to protect the public." (Doc. 1 at 10.)

In addition to that claim relating to the Parole Board's discretion, Bricker also complains that the Parole Board's consideration of many factors in a parole decision, see 61 P.S. § 331.19, creates a "highly prejudicial anti-social profile [of an inmate] which is substituted for and replaces the trial court's profile." (Doc. 1 at 10.) This practice, he claims, "demoniz[es] an inmate." (Id.) In a related claim, Bricker also accuses the Parole Board of collecting only "negative reports" for support of its denial of parole, without considering "any kind of record which reflects contrary conduct." (Id. at 11.)

Bricker also claims that an inmate's constitutional rights are violated when the Parole Board denies parole to an inmate who refuses to take responsibility for the crimes of which he has been convicted. (Id.) He asserts that the Parole Board considers this fact alone as the determining factor in its decision to deny parole. (Id.) Further, if the DOC reports to the Parole Board that an inmate has refused to take responsibility for his crimes, "it is vertually [sic] certain that the Parole Board will deny parole." (Id. at 12.)

B. Challenge to DOC Policies and Procedures

Bricker also asserts several claims with respect to the DOC's grievance system as it relates to treatment of inmates and parole decisions. Specifically, Bricker claims he is "seeking major [reform] in practices and procedures culminating in the way of which the inmate is treated during the searching of his cell or cubit, such as taking the things of which he or she buys on commissary and throwing the item away, and in all Parole decisions."*fn6 (Id. at 3.)

Bricker also claims that the DOC violates an inmate's constitutional rights when it submits to the Parole Board an unfavorable recommendation because the inmate has failed to take responsibility for his crimes. (Id. at 12.) Bricker asserts that the inmate's failure to accept responsibility for his crimes unconstitutionally becomes the sole basis for the DOC to recommend denial of parole to the Parole Board. (Id.)

C. Malfeasance, Misfeasance, and Nonfeasance

In the complaint, Bricker sets forth separate claims of malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance. Generally, Bricker accuses the Parole Board members of making parole decisions in which "a great number of votes cast by Parole Board Members are not the product of an exercise of discretion. The true driving force dictating these votes springs from bureaucratic misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance." (Doc. 1 at 6.) His detailed claims of malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance are as follows. Initially, Bricker claims that the Parole Board members commit malfeasance when they consider only an inmate's refusal to take responsibility for his crimes, without considering other factors, when making a parole decision. (Id. at 13.)

Further, Bricker claims that the DOC commits misfeasance when it orders inmates to undergo programs which have not been ordered by the sentencing court. (Id.) Specifically, the DOC has a practice and an established state procedure of: (1) Ordering prescriptive plans of programs which were not giving [sic] by the sentencing Judge of Court; (2) refusing to offer programs which were order [sic] by sentencing Judge; (3) refusing credit for a completed program because it was not taken at their institution; (4) requiring programs carrying a stigma which are unrelated to an offender's crime (i.e. ordering a sex offender course or a sex DNA test for an inmate who was never convicted of a sex crime). (Id.) This misfeasance allegedly leads to the denial of parole.

Bricker also claims that the Parole Board members commit nonfeasance when they fail to consider positive reports on an inmate when a negative report has already been presented. "Defendants collect negative reports, while burying or ignoring positive ...


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